Government response

Animal welfare: myths busted

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

A range of animal welfare myths busted.

The myth - Millions of hens will have their beaks trimmed, which can be avoided by a ban.

The truth - As Compassion in World Farming has pointed out, the Government has set out a timeline to ban beak trimming altogether by 2016.

The Farm Animal Welfare Council told us that implementing an immediate ban before there was a viable alternative would lead to worse welfare of laying hens, through pecking and cannibalism.

The myth - Pigs, sheep and cows in abattoirs will lose crucial protection from abuse because Defra has dropped prosecutions.

The truth - We will prosecute any abattoir that does not maintain high welfare standards as long as that case will stand up in court. But we won’t waste taxpayers’ money pursuing prosecutions we know are likely to fail because the evidence was obtained illegally.

After carefully reviewing the evidence in the case to which Animal Aid refers, we decided there wasn’t a realistic prospect of conviction, because the case depended on video footage unlawfully obtained by a trespasser acting on behalf of a third part. Similar cases have failed because the courts won’t allow the use of evidence obtained in this way.

The myth - Game birds will remain in cages ‘after’ lobbying from the Countryside Alliance and other shooting groups.

The truth - The Government withdrew the earlier code, which had recommended minimum space allowances for birds, on the grounds that we did not consider that all of it was based on sound evidence.

The amended code is based on the available scientific evidence and will be monitored and reviewed by an independent group over the next five years.

This isn’t the result of lobbying - it’s about looking at the scientific evidence and making decisions in accordance with that evidence.

The myth - Badgers will be culled to control bovine TB when vaccination could do just as good a job.

The truth - More than 25,000 cattle were slaughtered last year because of bovine TB.

As our research published this week shows, while vaccination will not be as effective as culling in quickly lowering the TB infection in the badger population, vaccination does have a part to play and our consultation covers how the two might be used together.

Our consultation on controlling bovine TB in badgers closes in December and is the opportunity for people to comment on the proposals.

The myth - Wild animals will continue to perform in circuses.

The truth - It is important we have the right measures on animals performing in circuses, so Lord Henley has been meeting representatives of welfare groups and the circus industry and asked for further evidence and information by the end of the year. Once we have this we can decide on the way forward.

The myth - Jim Paice has expressed doubt over plans to label compulsorily kosher and halal meat from animals killed without being stunned first.

The truth - Jim Paice told Parliament on 4 November that the Government would like all animals to be stunned properly before they are slaughtered. There is a discussion in Europe about food information regulations, but the UK does not believe that this is the right vehicle to take this forward. Next year we will consult on how to implement the European animal welfare regulations, and the labelling issue will be examined as part of that.

Further information